Unto the Least of These
by Kathy Penrod
My dad was born in 1920 - during a time when people didn’t lock their doors and it was safe to stop and help a stranger. He also was given such a good heart that he always wanted to help those in need. He would frequently stop for the hitchhiker, help those stranded on the side of the road and pray for those he couldn’t help.
Today is a different world. It isn’t safe to stop for hitchhikers any more. I worry about the safety of my family and myself if I were to stop. Most people these days have cell phones, so is there really a need to stop and help someone who is stranded with a disabled car? Could I even help with my lack of automobile knowledge?
There are many times I see people on the street corners that need help. They are homeless, hungry or in need of work. My heart aches for them but I think, “What can I do?” or “Do they really need help or are they looking for drug money?” More often than not, I drive by in my air-conditioned car, thinking about them until the next stoplight, heading to my comfortable home.
A few years ago, while still living in the Arizona desert, I saw something that I will never forget. Heavenly Father had a lesson for me that day. I was driving past an intersection on a typical Arizona summer day; 100+ degrees. On this corner was a man dressed as though he was prepared for the world’s worst blizzard. He wore a scarf, hat, several layers of heavy clothing followed by an open coat. His bearded face was barely poking through the layers of clothing. It was obvious, from the appearance of both the clothes and the man, that neither had been washed in some time. In fact, it took some effort to differentiate the man from the clothes, as they were both so dirty. He had sunken down, half laying, half sitting, to the cement, leaning against the stoplight post. He is what I imagine the Savior meant when he said “the least of these”.
Next to this poor man was another man, maybe in his 20’s, although I didn’t see his face. One arm was around the fallen man and, with his other arm, he held a yellow Gatorade to the man’s mouth. I could tell by how the younger man leaned in to help, that he wasn’t worried about smell, filth or safety. He was worried about a fellow human. I felt as though I had seen the story of the Good Samaritan play out right before me. I have seen the painting, one man leaning over another to help, but this was a real life version of it. I wondered how I could get to that point in my life where I would not worry about what is unpleasant for me and worry more about what my fellowman needs.
A good and righteous king in the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin, taught that we are all beggars before our God. We all stand in need of succor - of rescue – at some point. (Mosiah 4:16-19, 22, 26) So, who are we to judge the needs of others? Similarly, we are taught by the Savior, Himself, in Matthew 25:35-40 that when we serve “the least” of humankind, we are, in fact, serving Him. It is as if we had done the kind act for Jesus Christ.
We are all given opportunities to reach out to those around us in need. And, there is always SOMETHING we can do. Every day we wake up is a blessing, an opportunity to bless someone else. The Lord has tried hard to teach me this lesson. I have come to the conclusion that if He is the one blessing me then who am I to refuse help to others? Who am I to withhold what I can share from them? Of course, I don’t think the Lord expects me to compromise the safety of my family or myself. But how difficult would it be to stock up on bus passes, Wal-mart gift cards, or even Gatorade. These are things I can do… these are things that “the least of these” need.
I know that all that I have, the Lord has given me. It does not belong to me, but to Him. It is my sacred duty to share with those around me. Who am I to turn them away?